M.I.A’s Matangi released a year late amidst disputes with her record company Universal, but the results show a wickedly inventive and eccentric fourth album.
Story by Rumnique Nannar
I was among the few people who were blown away by M.I.A.’s 2010 album, Maya, which explored Internet politics, rabble-rousing revolution, and her troubled personal life. It unfortunately made a paltry sum compared to her previous album, Kala, in spite of being acutely prophetic about the recent NSA wire-tapping in her opening track “The Message:” “iPhone connected to the internet/connected to the Google/connected to the government.”
Matangi is a stunning realization of the themes M.I.A has been building on over the years, from female sexuality, othering, and taking issue with the male-dominated music industry. While these topics are muddled and integrated throughout the album, her lyrics retain that satirical and snappy edge that we fell in love with in 2005. She raps about her frustration on “Boom (Skit)” with barbed one-liners like “Brown girl, brown girl/Turn you shit down/America don’t wanna hear your sound.” These moments of self-awareness show her outsider status in the music industry as a South Asian trailblazer.
The album is also a marked difference from her mixtape, Vicki Leekx, and Maya with its return to an enthusiastic hybridity in sounds, from Bollywood kitsch and kuthu beats mixed with dubstep, to trap and even dancehall reggae. It’s this interesting brew of sounds that makes the album infinitely more danceable and accessible to those turned off by the industrial noise and cacophony of its predecessors. The album features stompers like “Bring the Noize” which is a pulsating number that takes a killer melody from discordant electronic sounds and showcases her spitfire skills, calling herself the “female Slick Rick.” There’s even the playful “Double Bubble Trouble” which hilariously reworks the East-End Britpop song, “Trouble” by Shampoo, by fusing dancehall with some crazy trap beats. It’s these tonal shifts which keep the album constantly beguiling.
She even gives her own spiritual stamp on “Y.A.L.A (You Always Live Again)” by sending up Drake’s YOLO motto by imitating his laconic style during the finale. The weaker songs tend to be the mushier numbers like “Lights” and “Know It Ain’t Right” which are bogged down by average lyrics and muddled beats. However, when she does go for slower numbers like “Exodus” there’s the fabulous The Weeknd to create that moody landscape.
The album is an absolute stunner in terms of production values. M.I.A. teams up with sidekick Faith, Britney Spears-collaborator Danja, and Hit-Boy, who made Kanye and Jay Z’s ‘N****s In Paris’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Backseat Freestyle’ and A$AP Rocky’s ‘Goldie.’
M.I.A channels her inner goddess and namesake Mathangi, the deity of music, on the album in a fresh and naturally divisive way. Serve your ears something good and be taken away to M.I.A’s chaotic and eccentric soundscape.
Order M.I.A.’s Mathangi on iTunes.
Story By: Rumnique Nannar